In his autobiography titled Building Life (1977), the renowned architect and urban planner Georges Candilis dedicated a few pages of his book to a small vernacular building located in the Greek island of Aegina. The so-called Rodakis house (by the name of its creator and first owner) had been an enduring source of inspiration for Candilis not only for its modern, abstract form, but also because of its symbolic sculpted animals –a duck, a pig, a snake, and a pigeon– that were placed on its roof. These expressive animal sculptures added power and meaning to the simple, minimal structure; they were understood as communal emblems of an alternative modernity, a less technical and positivist one, one that preserved the hope that progress can still be compatible with the archaic, the indigenous, the mythical, and the sacred.

Following the Candilis narrative, Tsiambaos will comment on a few case-studies in which such animal references and representations seem to play a critical role in relation to modern architecture and urban planning. Animals often appear as typical objects of otherness; they serve as models, paradigms, and metaphors that attempt to radically question the identities, definitions and boundaries of modernity by calling for the end of architecture the way we know it.

Kostas Tsiambaos is Assistant Professor in History & Theory of Architecture at the School of Architecture of the National Technical University in Athens (NTUA). He is Chair of Greece. He studied in Athens (NTUA) and New York (GSAPP Columbia University). His research has been published in international journals (The Journal of Architecture, Architectural Research Quarterly, Architectural Histories) and collective volumes. His research interests focus on the promotion and use of concepts and interpretative tools borrowed from philosophy, political theory and psychoanalysis in the history and theory of modern and contemporary architecture. His books include From Doxiadis' Theory to Pikionis' Work: Reflections of Antiquity in Modern Architecture (London & New York: Routledge, 2018) and Ambivalent Modernity: 9+1 texts on Modern Architecture in Greece (Epikentro, 2017). He recently co-edited the exhibition catalogue The Future as a Project: Doxiadis in Skopje (Hellenic Institute of Architecture, 2018). 

Comment: Esther da Costa Meyer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Art & Archaeology